The Israeli navy released Monday afternoon the HMS Beethoven, a Liberian-flagged German vessel it apprehended 160 miles off the Israeli coast, on Sunday afternoon, on suspicion that it was carrying weapons headed to Gaza. Thorough overnight inspections of the cargo turned up nothing problematic, and the troops let the ship continue on its way.
Army representatives told Army radio that such inspections created deterrence and would prevent future smuggling attempts.
The ship was en route from Lebanon to Alexandria, Egypt, and the fear was that it was carrying arms meant for Gaza or the Sinai.
Commandos unpacked containers on the vessel, and found nothing suspicious. The captain of the vessel was reported to have cooperated with the Israeli soldiers.
Israel maintains a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, for fear that Gaza’s Hamas rulers would abuse open access to import missiles and other weapons.
In May 2010, naval commandos intercepted a flotilla designed to breach the blockade, and nine Turkish citizens were killed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, where the commandos came under attack. The incident led to a drastic deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel.